EU Cautioned Against Siding With US on Non-Nuclear Issues

Europe should not pander to Washington’s wishes to shift focus on another unnecessary crisis, whether it be Iran’s defensive missile program or its influence in the Middle East
Mohammad Javad ZarifMohammad Javad Zarif

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the European parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to ignore the US call for a renegotiation of the agreement and for new curbs on Iran beyond the nuclear issue.

"Unfortunately, for the past 11 months, the response to Iran's good faith has been tantrums from the Trump administration," Zarif wrote in an article published by the New York Times on Sunday.

US President Donald Trump, who took office in January, has adopted a harsh tone toward the nuclear accord and the Islamic Republic.

"But the unreliability of the United States—from climate change to Palestine—has become predictable. Our main concern now is cautioning European countries against wavering on issues beyond the scope of the nuclear agreement and following in lockstep behind the White House," he said.

Zarif warned against undermining the agreement, describing it as "a rare triumph of diplomacy over confrontation".

"Undermining that would be a mistake. Europe should not pander to Washington's determination to shift focus to yet another unnecessary crisis—whether it be Iran's defensive missile program or our influence in the Middle East. This would repeat the very dynamics that preceded the nuclear deal," he said.

Trump refused to continue certifying Tehran's compliance with the curbs that the pact placed on its nuclear program in return for removing international sanctions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the sole body with a mandate to monitor Tehran's commitments, has disputed Trump's baseless claim in all its reports so far.

The hawkish Republican has threatened to terminate the UN-endorsed accord, unless Washington's European allies and the US Congress work together to find a way to contain Tehran's regional role and missile program, which he sees as a risk to the US interests in the Middle East.

  Combustible Territory

"As the nuclear deal and the Middle East enter uncharted and potentially combustible territory, it is imperative that Europe helps ensure that we don't soon find ourselves repeating history," Zarif wrote in the article.

Elaborating on what he meant by "repeating history", he said, "More than a decade before the talks that led to the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran held similar negotiations with Britain, France and Germany. European diplomats, seeking to persuade George W. Bush's administration to give diplomacy a chance, asked us for a temporary, voluntary freeze on uranium-enrichment-related activities as a confidence-building measure. We agreed."

"But placating the Americans proved difficult and the Europeans took another wrong turn. After two years of negotiation—and under pressure from the United States—Britain, France and Germany suddenly demanded that we abandon all enrichment activities. The talks fell apart and the Europeans ended up neither stopping our nuclear program nor appeasing Washington."

  Right to Self-Defense

Zarif reasserted the Islamic Republic's right to military development for self-defense, dismissing Trump's demand for constraints on Iran's missile program.

"Iran's military capabilities comply with international law and are entirely defensive. Our defensive posture stems from sober geostrategic calculations, as well as moral and religious convictions … We have honed missiles as an effective means of deterrence."

The top diplomat defended Tehran's role in the regional counter-terrorism campaign, which involves a trilateral initiative with Moscow and Ankara to end a seven-year-long civil war in Syria.

"Iran is proud of taking the lead in trying to bring an overdue end to the bloodshed in Syria. In 2013, I presented a plan to end the conflict there through a ceasefire, the formation of a national unity government, constitutional reform and free and fair elections. But this plan fell on deaf ears. Still, we have continued our efforts," he said.

"Just last month, our president, Hassan Rouhani, joined by his Russian and Turkish counterparts, took an important stride toward peace at their summit meeting in Sochi, Russia, paving the way for more aid, de-escalation and the convening of a Syrian people's congress."

He criticized western and regional states for failing to heed Iran's peace offer to end the Yemen conflict, which pits Iran-backed Houthi fighters against a Saudi-led coalition that has been bombarding the impoverished Arab country to restore Yemen's former fugitive president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to power.

"In the case of Yemen, only two weeks after Saudi Arabia began its brutal bombing campaign in April 2015, Iran put forward a plan urging an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian assistance, followed by national dialogue to establish an inclusive government. The perpetrators of the humanitarian crisis and their western allies chose war instead."

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